The Brooklyn Nets on Thursday suspended star guard Kyrie Irving at least five games without pay for refusing to “unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs, nor acknowledge specific hateful material in the film (he shared on Twitter). This was not the first time he had the opportunity – but failed – to clarify,” the team said in a statement.
In a strong condemnation, the Nets released the 207-word statement hours after Irving met with reporters, but declined to offer a direct apology and refused to say he had antisemitic views.
“Such failure to disavow antisemitism when given a clear opportunity to do so is deeply disturbing, is against the values of our organization, and constitutes conduct detrimental to the team,” the Nets said. “Accordingly, we are of the view that he is currently unfit to be associated with the Brooklyn Nets. We have decided that Kyrie will serve a suspension without pay until he satisfies a series of objective remedial measures that address the harmful impact of his conduct and the suspension period served is no less than five games.”
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The controversy centered on Irving began last week when he promoted a film titled “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake up Black America,” a so-called documentary that is filled with antisemitism and fabrications.
Irving initially refused to back down from his social media post despite a statement from Nets owner Joe Tsai the NBA. On Wednesday, the Nets and Irving announced a $1 million donation – $500,000 each – to organizations that strive to “eradicate hate and intolerance.” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, applauded the Nets’ decision to suspend Irving and said the ADL “cannot in good conscience accept” Irving’s donation.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver responded early Thursday that he was disappointed Irving “has not offered an unqualified apology and more specifically denounced the vile and harmful content contained in the film he chose to publicize.”
Irving had the chance to do that with reporters Thursday afternoon.
“Over the last several days, we have made repeated attempts to work with Kyrie Irving to help him understand the harm and danger of his words and actions, which began with him publicizing a film containing deeply disturbing antisemitic hate,” the Nets said. “We believed that taking the path of education in this challenging situation would be the right one and thought that we had made progress with our joint commitment to eradicating hate and intolerance.”
The 2-6 Nets, who play Washington on Friday, are embroiled in controversy. They fired Steve Nash as coach on Tuesday, and suspended Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka was immediately identified as the top choice to replace Nash, according to several reports.